Kovalenko Time? Avalanche Prospect Free To Join Team, If Healthy

Colorado Hockey Now

The Colorado Avalanche added a lot of bodies up front over the last week, but they’re about to toss one more forward into the equation.

And he’s real wild card.

Nikolai Kovalenko‘s KHL season is officially over. Torpedo lost in game five on Saturday to SKA and have been eliminated from the playoffs. What does that mean?

It’s Kovalenko time…or it will be soon.

Signed over the summer to a two-year entry-level contract, Kovalenko is set to join the Avalanche here in the near future once he gets to North America. He finished the KHL regular season with 35 points in 42 games, and added four points in five playoff games, playing on Torpedo’s most dangerous line. Colorado selected him in the 6th round of the 2018 NHL Draft, and signed him to a two year entry-level contract last summer.

Scoring isn’t all that makes Kovalenko, though. He’s a tenacious player who plays in all situations, as Igor Larionov trusts him to run the half-wall on the powerplay and to kill penalties. The Avalanche think he can help right away, and GM Chris MacFarland said as much during the Altitude broadcast on Friday night.

“Kovalenko is a guy that we could see here, hopefully, in the next little bit as well,” MacFarland said. “We’ll have to see where he can fit, but we think he can contribute. (He had a) really good year. He was a 6th round pick 4-5 years ago. His dad played with Joe, Andrei Kovalenko. He’s actually born in the states, but he’s been playing in the KHL. He’s not a kid, he’s 22-23 years old (24). We think he’s going to fit somewhere in that bottom six and hopefully grow from there.”

I’ve reached out to the Avalanche about how quickly he can join the team, but have not heard back with a definite answer. Because he was born in the US, it should be easier for him to get to North America, as he should have an American passport.

Colorado made a lot of additions to the bottom six, but Kovalenko could still contribute there. I’ve talked to some folks in Nashville and they’ve mentioned that Yakov Trenin was a mentor to many of the young Russians in the organization, even housing them during training camp. Colorado is building up a pretty good stable of Russian forwards. Seeing as how he has no experience in North America, Kovalenko is a real wild card, but he’s got talent and the organization seems to believe in him.

Now the question will be whether or not he’s healthy. He took an awkward hit with under three minutes remaining on Saturday, and had to be helped off the ice. After the game, Igor Larionov didn’t seem too concerned, but you never know with knees.

As always, CHN will keep you updated when we get more information as to when he’s expected to join the Avalanche and what the status is of his health.

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